Biofuel Powers Boeing 787 Across The Pacific

A Boeing 787 Dreamliner has made aviation history by completing the first ever transpacific biofuel flight.

The Boeing, operated by All Nippon Airways (ANA), flew between Boeing’s Delivery Center in Everett, Wash., and Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. It was powered by a mix of regular aviation fuel and biofuels, made mainly from used cooking oil.

ANA 787 BioFueling on Boeing Flightline K65630

image via Boeing

According to Boeing, the plane emitted an estimated 30 percent less carbon dioxide emissions compared to similarly sized airplanes using conventional jet fuel.

Boeing said the reduction in emissions was helped in large part by technological improvements in the Dreamliner. Of the reduction in greenhouse gasses, the aircraft maker said about 10 percent could be put down to the use of biofuels and around 20 percent to efficiency advances on the plane itself.

Boeing said the flight showed how innovations in technology were helping to bring to realization the airline industry’s goal of carbon-neutral growth beyond 2020.

“The 787 is the most environmentally progressive jetliner flying today, combining fuel efficiency and comfort with reduced carbon emissions,” Billy Glover, Boeing’s vice president of environment and aviation policy said in a statement.

This transpacific trip is the latest in a series of biofuel flights that have occurred in recent years. Aviation regulators approved the use of biofuels last summer. Shortly after, the first commercial plane to run on biofuels was operated by the Dutch carrier KLM. The airline used a green fuel blend—a 50-50 mix of traditional jet fuel and biofuel—carrying more than 170 passengers on a Boeing 737-800 on a route from Amsterdam to Paris in June.

Since then U.S. carriers have got in on the act. Continental operated a flight from Houston to Chicago in November powered by the first 100 percent algae-derived jet fuel (blended with 60 percent conventional jet fuel).

Paul Willis has been journalist for a decade. Starting out in Northern England, from where he hails, he worked as a reporter on regional papers before graduating to the cut-throat world of London print media. On the way he spent a year as a correspondent in East Africa, writing about election fraud, drought and an Ethiopian version of American Idol. Since moving to America three years ago he has worked as a freelancer, working for CNN.com and major newspapers in Britain, Australia and North America. He writes on subjects as diverse as travel, media ethics and human evolution. He lives in New York where, in spite of the car fumes and the sometimes eccentric driving habits of the yellow cabs, he rides his bike everywhere.